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Spectre of water charges hasn’t gone away, you know

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Liam Clarke

Liam Clarke

Liam Clarke

Water charges were the ghost at the feast during the Budget debate.

With elections coming, politicians want to ignore the issue, but it won’t go away. The annual bill is £500m and rising. The fact that the Executive killed off this revenue stream, a tax that applies in the rest of the UK, weakens our politicians’ case when asking for more money from the Treasury. “Why not raise what you can locally?” is the killer reply.

Back in the boom days of 2007, every party in government agreed to waive the water charge to create a feelgood factor about devolution.

Without an opposition in the Executive, no-one is in a position to criticise anyone else on the issue.

Gordon Brown met the bill for the first couple of years in order to encourage cross-party agreement. Now he is gone and our block grant has been cut, but the lost water charges continue to drain the Executive’s budget like an old standing order which no one has the nerve to cancel.

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